Words and photos by Alexander Hotz
Here’s a great piece of advice: Never get in a road vehicle during Songkran in Thailand.
Songkran (Thai New Year) is famous for being the world’s largest water fight, but less well-known is that during this seven day festival the Kingdom becomes arguably the most dangerous place to drive on Earth.
Deaths, injuries, and accidents reliably skyrocket. This spike has become such a phenomenon that the Thai media dubs it “The Seven Dangerous Days” and makes a point of tracking the day-to-day death and injury numbers.
I wanted to see what it’s like to be on the front lines of this annual crisis so in April 2015 I followed a local rescue crew for 5 of the 7 deadly days. Here is what I saw.
Watch the Coconuts TV original documentary “The 7 Dangerous Days.”
Two Romsai Foundation rescue workers attend to a crash victim in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital during the second night of Songkran 2015. Like many Songkran crash victims, this man was drinking while driving a motorcycle.
A soldier watches cars pass on a busy street in Minburi, Thailand. The army usually assist local police and rescue workers at traffic stops during Songkran.
A Minburi police chief gives orders to the Romsai Foundation rescue workers before beginning a traffic stop operation on a main road in Minburi.
An armed soldier stands guard at a traffic checkpoint. During Songkran, authorities man traffic stops to catch drunk driving.
A Minburi officer gives a ticket to a driver who was caught riding on a motorcycle without a helmet.
Romsai rescue worker sets up cones to divert traffic around a nearby accident.
Tong, the head firefighter for Romsai squad, poses for a picture after his mission on the the first night of Songkran.
A shrine at the Romsai Foundation’s headquarters in Minburi, Thailand. Songkran is an ancient Buddhist festival of renewal and family. In recent years, however, the festival has become known for a culture of hard drinking.
Revelers party on the side of a main street in Minburi, Thailand. During the Songkran festival heavily trafficked streets are often lined with revelries like these people who splash passing pedestrians and motorists with water. Oftentimes these interactions serve as the catalysts for grisly accidents.
A ‘teen street racer, commonly referred as ‘Dek Wan’ in Thai, shows off a motorcycle trick for his friends. During Songkran many Dek Wan take over streets and highways in Bangkok to race their customized bikes.
Aek, the Chief Operating Officer of the Romsai Foundation’s Minburi branch, receives a call for an accident during the second night of Songkran.
A Romsai rescue worker inspects a car crash on the side of a highway on the fifth night of Songkran. The drunk driver was speeding and crashed his car head on into a light pole.
Ake, a Romsai rescue worker, poses for a picture after an accident on the fourth night of Songkran.